The US Secret Service has said it needs $8m (£5.4m) to build a replica White House to train agents.The beleaguered agency’s director Joseph Clancy told lawmakers the fake executive mansion would provide agents and officers a more realistic training experience.
The request follows a series of embarrassing security lapses last year, including a knife-wielding man who managed to sprint across the White House lawn and make his way into the mansion before he was restrained.
Mr Clancy said agents currently train in a car park that does not have the bushes and fountains that the White House grounds do.
He said a replica mansion would be built in Beltsville, Maryland, about 20 miles (32 km) from the president’s real home in Washington.
Mr Clancy made his pitch on Tuesday to a House Appropriations subcommittee.
He was there, in part, to answer questions about the agency’s most recent mishap involving two senior agents in an alleged drink-driving incident outside the White House.
Mr Clancy said he was frustrated by the latest allegations of wrongdoing, and any disciplinary action would come after the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general completed an investigation.
He told the committee that video of the 4 March incident showed a vehicle driven by a senior agent nudging a large construction barrier near a White House gate at a low rate of speed.
Both agents inside the vehicle have been assigned to non-supervisory jobs pending the outcome of the investigation.
Mr Clancy was appointed by President Obama last month to take over the troubled agency on a permanent basis.
The 30-year veteran agent had served as acting director since October, when then-Secret Service boss Julia Pierson was forced to resign.
His appointment was met with some resistance from lawmakers who pointed to a previously released independent review that called for a new, outside leader not steeped in the agency’s traditions.
In January, four high-ranking executives at the agency were reassigned as part of an internal shake-up.
Mr Clancy said the moves were “necessary to gain a fresh perspective” on how the agency conducts business.
Several other incidents have also tarnished the agency’s reputation in recent years.
In 2012, Secret Service agents sent to Colombia to prepare for Mr Obama’s arrival at a summit meeting capped a night of partying at strip clubs by taking several prostitutes back to their hotel.
Last March in Amsterdam, a Secret Service agent was found passed out drunk in the hall of a hotel, where he was helping prepare for a presidential visit.
In 2011, an Idaho man opened fire on the White House with a semi-automatic rifle from the street.
No one realised the building had been hit by seven bullets until four days later when a housekeeper found a broken window and piece of concrete on a balcony.